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Wyoming Child Custody
Child Custody in Wyoming

According to Wyoming Statutes Annotated; Title 20, Chapter 20-2-201, in the interest of the best interests of the child, custody may be awarded to either parent and may take the form of joint, shared, or sole custody to promote the best interests of the children.

In deciding custody, the Wyoming courts determine the quality of the child's relationship with the parents. A parent who provides love and affection to the child and is attentive to the child's physical and emotional needs is a good candidate for custody. The court reviews factors that stabilize the relationship between the child and parent, such as the parent's willingness to assume full responsibility for raising the child (i.e. providing safe living conditions, clothing and daily meals).

A parent seeking custody in Wyoming must care for a child on a constant basis. Parents with chronic mental illnesses, such as manic depression or bipolar disorder, which severely alter a person's mood, do not fit this category because they can create an unsafe environment for the child. Likewise, a parent with a serious health condition that requires expensive medical treatments or long hospital stays will be absent, so the court considers other arrangements.

As governed by child custody laws, the family courts have jurisdiction over custody cases. In custody law, Wyoming stipulates whether or not a parent needs a third-party caregiver during times of custody, and how qualified the planned caregiver is. It stresses a parent's willingness to return the child to the other parent at the end of the parenting time, and to resist interfering in the other parent's time with the child, including decision-making and the right to privacy. The court considers the distance between parents' residences and transportation. It also weighs each parent's physical and mental capacity for parenting.

Based on Wyoming Statutes Annotated, Title 20, Chapter 20-2-201, custody may be awarded to either parent and may include any combination of joint, shared, or sole custody to promote the best interests of the children.

In deciding the best interests of the child, the court considers:

  • the quality of the relationship each child has with each parent;
  • the ability of each parent to provide adequate care for each child;
  • the relative competency and fitness of each parent;
  • each parent's willingness to accept all responsibilities of parenting;
  • how the parents and each child can best maintain and strengthen a relationship with each other;
  • the ability and willingness of each parent to allow the other to provide care without intrusion;
  • the geographic distance between the parents' residences;
  • the current physical and mental ability of each parent to care for each child; and
  • any other factors the court deems necessary and relevant.

Divorcing parents often work together to come up with a parenting plan that contains the information on how they plan to raise their children after divorce. Agreement between spouses with regards to childrearing reflects a willingness and ability to take care of their child after divorce. The custodial parent is entitled to make major decisions on the child's education, medical care, and other material needs of the child.

Mandatory Parenting Class

Wyoming courts have the right to require divorcing parents with minor children to complete a parenting class before granting a divorce. It is the Judge's discretion, so he or she may require you to take a parenting class. Whether or not you are required to do so, we highly recommend taking the Children In Between parenting class for the benefit of your child(ren).

Wyoming Child Custody Laws

In deciding custody in Wyoming, the family court considers:

  • the child's wishes or preferences as to custody, provided that he or she is mature enough to make such claims;
  • the parents' wishes or preferences as to custody;
  • the parents' willingness to accept parenting responsibilities and ability in childrearing such as parenting skills and discipline style;
  • the parents' ability to care and provide for the child's needs;
  • the parents' competency;
  • the nature of the relationship between the parents and the child;
  • the geographical distance between the parents' residences;
  • the mental or physical health of the parties involved in the proceedings;
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse; and
  • any other relevant factors that directly affects the child's welfare except the parents' gender and race.

UCCJEA

In accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), Wyoming will hear a custody dispute only once the child has lived in Wyoming for a minimum of six consecutive months. Infants under six months must have lived in the state from birth. Sometimes another state with rightful jurisdiction over the child waives it and allows Wyoming to proceed with a custody decision.

If a parent moves into Wyoming with the child, the last state of residence would have jurisdiction until six months have passed. If a parent and child move from Wyoming, the state would maintain jurisdiction for at least six months. In an emergency, such as the abandonment of a child or domestic violence issues, Wyoming issues temporary orders to protect the child until the state of jurisdiction can intercede.

Modifications

Under Sections 20-2-204 and 20-2-201(a) of Wyoming's statutes, a custody order can be modified by filing a motion but only when a "material and substantial" change has taken place since the last order was signed by a judge, and if addressing that change is in the best interests of the child.

Third Party Custody

In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, tries to gain custody of a child. The Wyoming's code recognizes the visitation rights of grandparents, with some limits. A judge has to find it to be in the best interests of the grandchild and it must not be contrary to parents' rights to raise their children without interference.

Parental Conduct

The evidence of spousal or child abuse is considered contrary to the best interests of the child, and the court shall structure visitation to protect the child or spouse from further harm. Section 20-2-201 of Wyoming's statutes permits the court to deny visitation or order supervised visitation with an abusive parent. When there is a history of spousal abuse, the statute permits visitation at a "safe zone," commonly the local police or sheriff's department.

Visitation

The Wyoming courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy.

A parent who has abused the child or the child's other parent likely will not be given custody in the state of Wyoming. However, the parent may be granted visitation. Depending on the court's discretion, the visitation can be supervised, to ensure the safety of the child. Evidence must be presented in court to prove that the abuse took place. The custodial parent can also request that the child be picked up and dropped off for visitation in a safe place such as the police department to make sure that no harm is done to the child during the visitation.

The non-custodial parent can obtain visitation rights unless the child's welfare is at risk with the visiting parent.

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